ALABAMA STAKES | PURSE: $600,000 | 3-YEAR-OLD FILLIES | GRADE 1 | 1 1/4 MILES
Princess of Sylmar likely wrapped up an Eclipse Award as outstanding 3-year-old filly with another sharp victory, this time in the Alabama Stakes Aug. 17 at Saratoga Race Course, her third Grade 1 victory in a row .
Javier Castellano drove the sleek chestnut to the front leaving the far turn and she dominated the stretch run under good handling to post a 2 ½-length victory for Ed Stanco's King of Prussia Stable and trainer Todd Pletcher. The homebred filly, sent off at odds of 1-2, is by Majestic Warrior out of the Catienus mare Storm Dixie.
Princess of Sylmar won the Kentucky Oaks and Coaching Club American Oaks previously, and has five wins and a second in six starts this season.
Fiftyshadesofhay was second with Carnival Court third in a field of five. Final time for the 1 ¼-mile distance was 2:03.21 over a fast track.
After winning his first Alabama, Pletcher said the three Grade 1 wins should secure championship honors for Princess of Sylmar.
"I have to think so," said the five-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer. "With the Kentucky Oaks, Coaching Club American Oaks -- that's a pretty hard trifecta to win, so I'll say she has definitely established herself as the champion 3-year-old filly, unless somebody does something [big]."
Pletcher demurred when asked what might be next for Princess of Sylmar, who Stanco said prior to the Alabama might not run again this year.
"We never make decisions right after a race, but Ed is committed to running her next year, and, who knows, maybe even as a 5-year-old," Pletcher said. "At some point you don't want to be greedy, but at the same time she is doing unbelievably well, and sometimes you have to take advantage of that, so we have some thinking to do."
Princess of Sylmar rated in fourth under a firm hold slightly off the rail, about three to four lengths off pacemaker Carnival Court, ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. Carnival Court held the advantage over Montana Native and second choice Fiftyshadesofhay for six furlongs while carving moderate fractions of :23.88, :48.16, and 1:12.77.
The favorite was angled four paths wide midway on the far turn and quickly passed the leaders when asked a bit more by Castellano. She led by two lengths at the quarter pole, which she reached in 1:37.91, and headed into the homestretch comfortably in front. Princess of Sylmar was three lengths clear of Fiftyshadesofhay mid-stretch and scooted home under a brisk hand ride from Castellano, who waved the whip at her.
"With a small field, there was not much to think about," Castellano said. "The way I handicapped the race, three horses had the speed, and the way it unfolded it was the perfect trip for her. She's a come-from-behind horse. I just let her enjoy the trip and when she was ready to go I asked her, and she just took off. She went right by them. She's an amazing horse. Everything we've asked, she has responded so well so far."
Owner Stanco was elated afterward.
"Wasn't that something, how she took off? But I have to ask Todd how she galloped out; that's the most important thing. Let's hope [we crowned a champion today]."
Fiftyshadesofhay, ridden by John Velazquez, finished 3 ¾ lengths in front of Carnival Court, with Galloping Giraffe and Montana Native trailing.
After taking two of three starts at 2, Princess of Sylmar was a dominating winner of the Busanda and Busher stakes, both over the inner course at Aqueduct Race Course this winter. Her only loss of the year followed, a second in the Gazelle Stakes over the main track at Aqueduct, 3 ¼ lengths behind Close Hatches.
But the flashy filly regrouped in the Kentucky Oaks at 38-1 odds, rallying from 10 lengths back to score a half-length win over 2-year-old filly champion Beholder. Princess of Sylmar then routed four opponents in the Coaching Club, cruising by six.
Her seven wins from a nine-race career have come by a combined margin of 51 lengths. Earning $360,000 for the Alabama victory, Princess of Sylmar has banked $1,367,220.
Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Princess of Sylmar paid $3, $2.10, and $2.10, while keying a $5.80 exacta. Fiftyshadesofhay returned $2.50 and $2.60 after shipping east for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert off wins in the Black-Eyed Susan and Iowa Oaks. Carnival Court paid $3.50.
Tell a Great Story scratched.